It’s been an epic 50 years for the Delhi High Court. Amidst celebrations and talk about new technology to enhance the court and make it more efficient, PM Narendra Modi – who was present at the celebration ceremony — pointed out a few challenges that the HC officials need to work upon to make the judicial process better. However, there is also one very important issue that deserves attention, and that is gender disparity in our High Courts.
The Delhi High Court got its first ever female Chief Justice G Rohini only two years ago, in 2014. She was the seniormost judge in the Andhra Pradesh High Court at the time, and became the 10th judge to be appointed in the Delhi HC out of the strength of 40. And yet, Delhi HC boasts of the highest number of female sitting judges in the country.
While Bombay also has 10 female judges in the Bombay High court, it also has 66 male judges and the Delhi HC only has 39 male judges. This brings up the Delhi HC percentage of female judges higher with 25.6% and Bombay HC percentage remains at 15.2% which is equal to Punjab HC when it has only seven female judges.
The other nine women judges at the Delhi HC are Justice Indira Banerjee, Justice Gita Mittal, Justice Hima Kohli, Justice Indermeet Kaur, Justice Mukta Gupta, Justice Pratibha Rani, Justice Sunita Gupta, Justice Deepa Sharma and Justice Sangita Dhingra Sehgal.
Ten judges who have paved the way, and while the Delhi High Court is reportedly doing better than others in the country, that’s still only 25 percent of the full strength. To quote from a piece in DailyO: ”A November 2015 India Today report shares some interesting facts, “There are just 62 (9.2 per cent) women judges compared to 611 male judges (in high courts) in the entire country. In 24 state high courts, nine HCs did not have a single woman judge. Three high courts had only one woman judge.”
Maybe times they are changing, because it looks like at the entry level at least, there’s less gender disparity. “Yes, there has been a growth in women lawyers in the Delhi High Court, and in the field of law in general. In fact amongst the younger generations of lawyers the ratio of men and women in the profession is close to equal,” lawyer Mayank Mikhail Mukherjee told SheThePeople.TV.
Talking about the times when these currently sitting judges became lawyers, law as a profession was not considered good for women because of perceived stereotypes — how could women argue in courts, seemed to be the thinking. Mukhurjee explained, “Only the women with either a family of lawyers, or with extremely educated parents entered the profession. With the advent of National Law Schools it has begun to change. In some batches in law schools there are more women than men! Thus there is a significant change in the perception of the law as a profession, as well as accessibility to the law allowing for more women to join the bar as well as the bench.”
Mukherjee is positive that the change in this issue is palpable and is on an upswing. “I think in the next 5-10 years the inequality in numbers won’t even be an issue.”
Picture credit- Indian Country Today